A Tale of Two Cities
In many ways, Doha is not so different from Shenzhen because it is a modern city. Like Shenzhen, most of Doha did not exist thirty or forty years ago. Yes, it has loads of skyscrapers and some impressive (and even whacky) modern buildings, just like SZ, and there are even some parks. Both cities are near the sea. But that is where the similarities end. Doha was built by Nepalis, Indians, Filipinos, and anyone else that the Qataris could get to do the work. Shenzhen, on the other hand, was built by the Chinese. Okay, they did hire a few foreign architects perhaps, but all of the real work was done by Chinese workers.
|Let's have a canal in a mall in a desert|
All along the line, you could feel a wave of helpless indignation at that Qatari’s arrogant behaviour and sympathy for that poor black man, as we were unable to do anything about such dreadful racism. The black-clad lady behind the counter said nothing and just got on with serving the Qatari scumbag. Hospitality, an important tradition in Arabia, ought to mean that being rude to a guest is something that should never happen, but maybe these old-fashioned rules do not apply in modern-day Doha.
|Irisha in SZ's Central Park|
|Two DHOWS, for Scrabble fans|
And what about Shenzhen? Yes, it is true that skin colour is an issue. Black people do get stared at and fingers are pointed, but really it is more because they are a novelty. To be honest, Chinese people do have the idea that having white skin means that you are superior, more upper class. That is why so many skin-whitening products are sold in pharmacies and of course that is why the Chinese ladies will use their parasols as soon as the sun starts shining. So maybe prejudice in SZ is more hidden, less blatant. On the other hand, American films featuring coloured actors probably give Chinese people the idea that meeting black people is unusual, exciting, exotic and very non-Chinese.
If this is the case, then hooray for Hollywood. I heard of one black girl who thought it was funny (and maybe flattering) that everyone in China called her "Beyonce". But if your skin is the wrong colour in Qatar, then it will definitely be the worst of times for you and for your family.
So was it a good idea to leave Doha and come to Shenzhen? Yes, it was a far, far better thing.